Word of God
Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
The Word of God, to which listening alone “gives rise to wonder”, should be jealously guarded in the depths of one’s heart. It was this that took hold of those who listened to the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:41-51). Likewise, it was wonder that filled Mary and Joseph at finding Jesus there. The first effect of the Word of God is therefore wonder: And then it gives us joy. But wonder is more than joy alone. It is the moment when the Word of God is sown in our hearts. And yet it isn’t only a moment: it is something that we carry within us for a lifetime, “in guardianship”. We need “to guard the Word of God, and the Gospel says this: "his mother guarded all these things in her heart”.
What does it mean to guard the Word of God? It means “opening our hearts” to the Word, “as the earth opens to the seed”. Some seeds scatter and “are eaten by birds”, and this happens when the Word is not guarded. It means that some hearts “do not know how to receive it”. Sometimes the seed falls “on earth with many rocks and the seed cannot take root and dies”. That is, they are not capable of guardianship because they are inconstant. “The Word can also fall on unprepared ground, where there are thorns and in the end it dies” because “it is not guarded”. But what are these thorns? Jesus says it is our “attachment to wealth, vice”. To guard the Word is to receive it, but we must “prepare our hearts to receive it. Meditate on what the Word tells us today, watching what happens in life.” This is what Mary did during the flight to Egypt and the wedding at Canaa, she pondered these events. Here lies the task for Christians: to welcome the Word of God and to think about what it means today.
In the first reading, St Paul reminds the Corinthians what his message was like, how he had proclaimed the Gospel: “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom”. Paul continues by saying that he did not present himself in order to convince his interlocutors with arguments, with words, even with images. The Apostle chose instead another mode, another style, and that is a demonstration of the Spirit and power, that — these are Paul’s words — “your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God”.
In effect the Apostle recalled that the Word of God is something different, something which is unequalled by a human word, a wise word, a scientific word, a philosophical word. The Word of God, indeed, is something else, it comes in another way: it is different because it is how God speaks.
Luke confirms this in the Gospel passage which tells of Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth, where he grew up and where everyone knew him as a child. In that context, he began to speak and the people listened to him, commenting: “Oh, how interesting!”. Then they bore witness: they were amazed with the words he spoke. And among them they observed: “Look at him, this one! How good, this boy whom we know, how good he has become! But where must he have studied?”.
However, Jesus stopped them and said to them: “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country”. Thus, to those who listened to him in the Synagogue at first it seemed a good thing and they accepted that manner of conversation and reception. But when Jesus began to give the Word of God they became furious and they wanted to kill him. Thus they passed from one side to the other, because the Word of God is different from the word of man, even from the loftiest word of man, the most philosophical word of man.
And so, what is the Word of God like? The Letter to the Hebrews, began by saying that, since ancient times, God had spoken, and he spoke to our fathers through the prophets. But in these times, at the end of that world, he spoke through the Son. In other words, the Word of God is Jesus, Jesus himself. That is what Paul was preaching, when he said: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Christ crucified”.
This is the Word of God, the only Word of God. And Jesus Christ is a reason for scandal: the Cross of Christ scandalizes. That is the strength of the Word of God: Jesus Christ, the Lord.
It becomes so important, to ask ourselves: “How do we receive the Word of God?”. The response is clear: “As one receives Jesus Christ. The Church tells us that Jesus is present in the Scripture, in His Word”. This is why, I have advised you many times to always carry a small Gospel with you — moreover, it costs little to buy it, to keep it in your purse, in your pocket, and read a passage from the Gospel during the day. Some practical advice, not so much to learn something, but mostly to find Jesus, because Jesus actually is in His Word, in His Gospel. Every time I read the Gospel, I find Jesus.
And what is the right attitude to receive this Word? It must be received as one receives Jesus, that is, with an open heart, with a humble heart, with the spirit of the Beatitudes. Because this is how Jesus came, in humility: he came in poverty, he came anointed by the Holy Spirit. Such that he himself began his discourse in the Synagogue of Nazareth with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”.
Thus, he is strength, he is the Word of God, because he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. In this way, , we too, if we want to hear and receive the Word of God, we must pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for this anointing of the heart, which is the unction of the Beatitudes. Thus, to have a heart like the heart of the Beatitudes.
As Jesus is present in the Word of God, and He speaks to us in the Word of God, it will do us good during the day today to ask ourselves: How do I receive the Word of God?
In the First Reading we heard that the Lord takes care of his children like a parent: He takes care to provide his children with nourishing food. God says through the Prophet: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?” (Is 55:2). God, like a good father and a good mother, wants to give good things to his children. And what is this nourishing food that God gives us? It is his Word: his Word makes us grow, it enables us to bear good fruit in life, just as the rain and snow imbue the earth, making it fruitful (cf. Is 55:10-11). Likewise you, parents, and you too, godmothers and godfathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, will help these children grow if you give them the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus. And give it also by your example! Every day, make it a habit to read a passage of the Gospel, a small one, and always carry a little Gospel with you in your pocket, in your purse, so you can read it. And this will set the example for your children, seeing dad, mom, their godparents, grandpa, grandma, aunts and uncles, reading the Word of God.
You, mothers, give milk to your children — even now, if they are crying with hunger, feed them, don’t worry. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of milk, and let us pray for those mothers — there are so many, unfortunately — who are unable to breast-feed their children. Let us pray and let us try to help these mothers. Thus, what milk does for the body, the Word of God does for the spirit: the Word of God makes faith grow. And thanks to faith we have been begotten by God. This is what happens at Baptism. We have heard the Apostle John: “Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God” (1 Jn 5:1). Your children are baptized in this faith. Today it is your faith, dear parents, godfathers and godmothers. It is the faith of the Church, in which these little ones receive Baptism. But tomorrow, by the grace of God, it will be their faith, their personal “yes” to Jesus Christ, which gives us the Father’s love.
I said: it is the faith of the Church. This is very important. Baptism integrates us into the body of the Church, into the holy People of God. And in this body, in this people journeying on, faith is passed down from generation to generation: it is the faith of the Church. It is the faith of Mary, our Mother, the faith of St Joseph, of St Peter, of St Andrew, of St John, the faith of the Apostles and of the Martyrs, which has come down to us, through Baptism: the chain of transmission of the faith. This is really beautiful! It is a passing of the flame of faith from hand to hand: we too will soon express it with the act of lighting candles from the great Paschal candle. The large wax candle represents the Risen Christ, living in our midst. You, families, take the light of faith from Him in order to pass it on to your children. You receive this light in the Church, in the Body of Christ, in the People of God who are journeying through every time and in every place. Teach your children that one cannot be a Christian outside of the Church, one cannot follow Jesus Christ without the Church, for the Church is Mother, who makes us grow in the love of Jesus Christ.
One last feature emerges powerfully from today’s Bible Readings: in Baptism we are consecrated by the Holy Spirit. This is what the word “Christian” means, it means consecrated like Jesus, in the same Spirit in which Jesus was immersed throughout his earthly existence. He is the “Christ”, the Anointed One, the Consecrated One; we, the baptized, are “Christian”, meaning consecrated, anointed. Therefore, dear parents, dear godfathers and godmothers, if you want your children to become true Christians, help them to grow up “immersed” in the Holy Spirit, that is to say, in the warmth of the love of God, in the light of his Word. For this reason, do not forget to invoke the Holy Spirit often, every day. “Do you pray, Ma’am?” — “Yes” — “Whom do you pray to?”. — “I pray to God”. But “God” does not exist like this: God is one person, and as a Person the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist. “Whom do you pray to?”. — “The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit”. We usually pray to Jesus. When we pray the “Our Father”, we pray to the Father. But we do not often pray to the Holy Spirit. It is very important to pray to the Holy Spirit, because He teaches us how to bring up the family, the children, so that these children may grow up in the atmosphere of the Holy Trinity. It is precisely the Spirit who leads them forward. For this reason, do not forget to invoke the Holy Spirit often, every day. You can do so, for example, with this simple prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love”. You can say this prayer for your children, as well as, naturally, for yourselves!
When you recite this prayer, you feel the maternal presence of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us to pray to the Holy Spirit, and to live in accordance with the Spirit, like Jesus. May Our Lady, our Mother, always accompany the journey of your children and of your families. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
This Sunday’s Gospel passage (cf. Mk 1:21-28) presents Jesus who, with his small community of disciples, enters Capernaum, the city where Peter lived and which was the largest city in Galilee at that time. Jesus goes to that city.
The Evangelist Mark, recounts that, since it was the Sabbath, Jesus went straight to the Synagogue and began to teach (cf. v. 21). This reminds us of the primacy of the Word of God, the Word to be listened to, the Word to be received, the Word to be proclaimed. Arriving in Capernaum, Jesus does not delay proclaiming the Gospel, does not think first about the necessary logistics of his small community, does not tarry over the organization. His primary concern is to communicate the Word of God with the power of the Holy Spirit. And the people in the Synagogue were astonished, because Jesus “taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (v. 22).
What does “with authority” mean? It means that in the human words of Jesus, the power of the Word of God could be felt, the authority of God, who is the inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures. And one of the characteristics of the Word of God is that He does what He says. For the Word of God corresponds to his will. We, on the other hand, often speak empty, shallow words, or superfluous words, words that do not coincide with the truth. Instead, the Word of God corresponds to the truth, it is united to his will and fulfils what He says. Indeed, Jesus, after preaching, immediately demonstrates his authority by freeing a man, in the Synagogue, who was possessed by a demon, (cf. Mk 1:23-36). The very divine authority of Christ provoked the reaction of Satan, hidden in that man; Jesus, in his turn, immediately recognized the voice of the evil one and “rebuked him:.... ‘Be silent, and come out of him’” (v. 25). With the power of his word alone, Jesus frees the person from the evil one. And once again those present were amazed: “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (v. 27). The Word of God arouses amazement in us. It has the power to astonish us.
The Gospel is the word of life: it does not oppress people, on the contrary, it frees those who are slaves to the many evil spirits of this world: the spirit of vanity, attachment to money, pride, sensuality.... The Gospel changes the heart, changes life, transforms evil inclinations into good intentions. The Gospel is capable of changing people! Therefore it is the task of Christians to spread the redeeming power throughout the world, becoming missionaries and heralds of the Word of God. This is also suggested by today’s passage which closes with a missionary perspective, saying: “his fame” — the fame of Jesus — “spread everywhere, throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee” (v. 28). The new doctrine, taught by Jesus with authority, is what the Church takes to the world, along with the effective signs of His presence: the authoritative teaching and the liberating action of the Son of God become words of salvation and gestures expressing the love of the missionary Church. Always remember that the Gospel has the power to change lives! Do not forget this. It is the Good News, which transforms us only when we allow ourselves to be transformed by it. That is why I always ask you to have daily contact with the Gospel, to read it every day: a verse, a passage, to meditate on it and even to take it with you everywhere: in your pocket, in your bag.... In other words to nourish yourself every day with this inexhaustible source of salvation. Do not forget! Read a passage of the Gospel every day. It is the power that changes us, that transforms us: it changes life, it changes the heart.
Let us invoke the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, she who received the Word and conceived Him for the world, for all mankind. She teaches us to be assiduous listeners and authoritative proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus.
Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel is composed of two very brief parables: that of the seed that sprouts and grows on its own, and that of the mustard seed (cf. Mk 4:26-34). Through these images taken from the rural world, Jesus presents the efficacy of the Word of God and the requirements of his Kingdom, showing the reasons for our hope and our commitment in history.
In the first parable, attention is placed on the fact that the seed scattered on the ground (v. 26) takes root and develops on its own, regardless of whether the farmer sleeps or keeps watch. He is confident in the inner power of the seed itself and in the fertility of the soil. In the language of the Gospel, the seed is the symbol of the Word of God, whose fruitfulness is recalled in this parable. As the humble seed grows in the earth, so too does the Word by the power of God work in the hearts of those who listen to it. God has entrusted his Word to our earth, that is to each one of us with our concrete humanity. We can be confident because the Word of God is a creative word, destined to become the “full grain in the ear” (v. 28). This Word, if accepted, certainly bears fruit, for God Himself makes it sprout and grow in ways that we cannot always verify or understand. (cf. v. 27). All this tells us that it is always God, it is always God who makes his Kingdom grow. That is why we fervently pray “thy Kingdom come”. It is He who makes it grow. Man is his humble collaborator, who contemplates and rejoices in divine creative action and waits patiently for its fruits.
The Word of God makes things grow, it gives life. And here, I would like to remind you once again, of the importance of having the Gospel, the Bible, close at hand. A small Gospel in your purse, in your pocket and to nourish yourselves every day with this living Word of God. Read a passage from the Gospel every day, a passage from the Bible. Please don’t ever forget this. Because this is the power that makes the life of the Kingdom of God sprout within us.
The second parable uses the image of the mustard seed. Despite being the smallest of all the seeds, it is full of life and grows until it becomes “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mk 4:32). And thus is the Kingdom of God: a humanly small and seemingly irrelevant reality. To become a part of it, one must be poor of heart; not trusting in their own abilities, but in the power of the love of God; not acting to be important in the eyes of the world, but precious in the eyes of God, who prefers the simple and the humble. When we live like this, the strength of Christ bursts through us and transforms what is small and modest into a reality that leavens the entire mass of the world and of history.
An important lesson comes to us from these two parables: God’s Kingdom requires our cooperation, but it is above all the initiative and gift of the Lord. Our weak effort, seemingly small before the complexity of the problems of the world, when integrated with God’s effort, fears no difficulty. The victory of the Lord is certain: his love will make every seed of goodness present on the ground sprout and grow. This opens us up to trust and hope, despite the tragedies, the injustices, the sufferings that we encounter. The seed of goodness and peace sprouts and develops, because the merciful love of God makes it ripen.
May the Holy Virgin, who like “fertile ground” received the seed of the divine Word, sustain us in this hope which never disappoints.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Sunday!
The Liturgy today, the Second Sunday after Christmas, presents us the Prologue of the Gospel of St John, in which it is proclaimed that “the Word” — that is, the creative Word of God — “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). In other words, that Word, which dwells in heaven in the dimension of God, came upon the earth so that we should hear it and we could know and physically touch the Love of the Father. The Word of God is his Only Begotten Son, having become man, full of love and devotion (cf. Jn 1:14); it is Jesus himself.
The Evangelist does not hide the dramatic nature of the Incarnation of the Son of God, emphasizing that the gift of God’s love is marked by mankind’s failure to receive it. The Word is the light, yet mankind preferred darkness; the Word came among his own, but they received him not (cf. vv. 9-10). They closed the door in the face of God’s Son. It is the mystery of evil that undermines our life too, and it requires vigilance and attention on our part so that it does not prevail. The Book of Genesis offers a nice phrase that lets us understand this: it says that sin is “couching at the door” (cf. 4:7). Woe to us should we let it enter; lest sin would close our door to anyone else. Instead we are called to open wide the door of our heart to the Word of God, to Jesus, in order to become his children in this way.
On Christmas Day this solemn beginning of the Gospel of John was proclaimed; today it is offered to us once again. It is the invitation of the Holy Mother Church to welcome this Word of salvation, this mystery of light. If we welcome him, if we welcome Jesus, we will grow in the knowledge and the love of the Lord, we will learn to be merciful like him. Particularly in this Holy Year of Mercy, let us allow the Gospel to become ever more incarnate in our lives as well. Approaching the Gospel, contemplating it, and embodying it in daily life is the best way to come to know Jesus and to bring him to others. This is the vocation and the joy of every baptized person: to reveal and give Jesus to others; but in order to do this we must know him and bear him within us, as the Lord of our life. He protects us from the evil one, from the devil, who is always lurking at our door, at our heart, and wants to get in.
With a renewed impetus of filial abandon, let us entrust ourselves once again to Mary: may we contemplate her gentle image as the Mother of Jesus and our Mother in the nativity scene during these days.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 4:12-23) recounts the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. He leaves Nazareth, a village in the mountains, and settles in Capernaum, an important centre on the lakeshore, inhabited largely by pagans, a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Mesopotamian inland. This choice indicates that the beneficiaries of his preaching are not only his compatriots, but those who arrive in the cosmopolitan “Galilee of the Gentiles” (v. 15, cf. Is 9:1): that’s what it was called. Seen from the capital Jerusalem, that land is geographically peripheral and religiously impure because it was full of pagans, having mixed with those who did not belong to Israel. Great things were not expected from Galilee for the history of salvation. Instead, right from there — precisely from there — radiated that “light” on which we meditated in recent Sundays: the light of Christ. It radiated right from the periphery.
Jesus’ message reiterates that of the Baptist, announcing the “kingdom of heaven” (v. 17). This kingdom does not involve the establishment of a new political power, but the fulfilment of the Covenant between God and his people, which inaugurates a season of peace and justice. To secure this covenant pact with God, each one is called to convert, transforming his or her way of thinking and living. This is important: converting is not only changing the way of life but also the way of thinking. It is a transformation of thought. It is not a matter of changing clothing, but habits! What differentiates Jesus from John the Baptist is the way and manner. Jesus chooses to be an itinerant prophet. He doesn’t stay and await people, but goes to encounter them. Jesus is always on the road! His first missionary appearances take place along the lake of Galilee, in contact with the multitude, in particular with the fishermen. There Jesus does not only proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, but seeks companions to join in his salvific mission. In this very place he meets two pairs of brothers: Simon and Andrew, James and John. He calls them, saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (v. 19). The call reaches them in the middle of their daily activity: the Lord reveals himself to us not in an extraordinary or impressive way, but in the everyday circumstances of our life. There we must discover the Lord; and there he reveals himself, makes his love felt in our heart; and there — with this dialogue with him in the everyday circumstances of life — he changes our heart. The response of the four fishermen is immediate and willing: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20). We know, in fact, that they were disciples of the Baptist and that, thanks to his witness, they had already begun to believe in Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Jn 1:35-42).
We, today’s Christians, have the joy of proclaiming and witnessing to our faith because there was that first announcement, because there were those humble and courageous men who responded generously to Jesus’ call. On the shores of the lake, in an inconceivable land, the first community of disciples of Christ was born. May the knowledge of these beginnings give rise in us to the desire to bear Jesus’ word, love and tenderness in every context, even the most difficult and resistant. To carry the Word to all the peripheries! All the spaces of human living are soil on which to cast the seeds of the Gospel, so they may bear the fruit of salvation.
May the Virgin Mary help us with her maternal intercession to respond joyfully to Jesus’ call, and to place ourselves at the service of the Kingdom of God.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel introduces us to the journey toward Easter, revealing Jesus as he remains in the desert for 40 days, subjected to the temptations of the devil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). This episode takes place at a precise moment in Jesus’ life: immediately after his Baptism in the River Jordan and prior to his public ministry. He has just received the solemn investiture: the Spirit of God has descended upon him, the heavenly Father has declared him “my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17). Jesus is now ready to begin his mission; and as this mission has a declared enemy, namely, Satan, He confronts him straight away, “up close”. The devil plays precisely on the title “Son of God” in order to deter Jesus from the fulfilment of his mission: “If you are the Son of God” (4:3, 6); and proposes that He perform miraculous acts — to be a “magician” — such as transforming stones into bread so as to satiate his hunger, and throwing himself down from the temple wall so as to be saved by the angels. These two temptations are followed by the third: to worship him, the devil, so as to have dominion over the world (cf. v. 9).
Through this three-fold temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the way of obedience and humiliation — because he knows that in this way, on this path, evil will be conquered — and to lead Him down the false shortcut to success and glory. But the devil’s poisonous arrows are “blocked” by Jesus with the shield of God’s Word (vv. 4, 10), which expresses the will of the Father. Jesus does not speak a word of his own: He responds only with the Word of God. Thus the Son, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, comes out of the desert victorious.
During the 40 days of Lent, as Christians we are invited to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and face the spiritual battle with the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God. Not with our words: they are worthless. The Word of God: this has the strength to defeat Satan. For this reason, it is important to be familiar with the Bible: read it often, meditate on it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God, which is always timely and effective. Someone has asked: what would happen were we to treat the Bible as we treat our mobile phone?; were we to always carry it with us, or at least a small, pocket-sized Gospel, what would happen?; were we to turn back when we forget it: you forget your mobile phone — ‘oh! I don’t have it, I’m going back to look for it’; were we to open it several times a day; were we to read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read telephone messages, what would happen? Clearly the comparison is paradoxical, but it calls for reflection. Indeed, if we had God’s Word always in our heart, no temptation could separate us from God, and no obstacle could divert us from the path of good; we would know how to defeat the daily temptations of the evil that is within us and outside us; we would be more capable of living a life renewed according to the Spirit, welcoming and loving our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and neediest, and also our enemies.
May the Virgin Mary, perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust in his will, sustain us on the Lenten journey, that we may set ourselves to listen docilely to the Word of God in order to achieve a true conversion of heart.
I celebrate with you the first Sunday of the Word: the Word of God makes the heart burn (cf. Lk 24:32), because it makes us feel loved and comforted by the Lord. The icon of "Our Lady of St. Luke", the evangelist, can help us to understand the maternal tenderness of the "living" word, which is at the same time "knife-sharp", as in today's Gospel: in fact it penetrates the soul (cf. Heb 4:12) and brings to light the secrets and contradictions of the heart.
Today it challenges us with the parable of the two sons, who respond to the Father's invitation to go into his vineyard: One says no, but then goes; the second says yes, but then doesn't work. There is, however, a big difference between the first son, who is lazy, and the second, who is hypocritical. Let's try to imagine what happened inside them. In the heart of the first, after his no, the invitation of his father still rang out; in the second, however, despite his yes, the father's voice was buried. The memory of the father awakened the first child from laziness, while the second, although he knew the good, contradicted his word with his actions. In fact, he had become impervious to the voice of God and of conscience, and without any problems accepted the duplicity of life. Jesus with this parable places two paths before us. Experience shows that we are not always willing to say yes in word and deed, because we are sinners. But we can choose whether to be sinners on the way, who listen to the Lord, and when they fall they repent and rise, like the first child; or sitting sinners, ready to always justify themselves and only with words according to what suits them.
This parable Jesus was addressed to some religious leaders of the time, the Son with his double life, while ordinary people often behaved like the other son. These leaders knew and explained everything, in a formally flawless way, like true intellectuals of religion. But they did not have the humility to listen, the courage to question themselves, and no strength to repent. And Jesus is very strict: he says that even tax collectors are more likely to enter the Kingdom of God. It is a harsh rebuke, because the tax collectors were corrupt traitors of the homeland. So what was the problem with these leaders? They were not simply mistaken about something, but they were mistaken in the way of life before God: they were, in words and with others, unyielding guardians of human traditions, unable to understand that life according to God is on the way and requires the humility to open up, repent and start again.
What does that say to us? That there is no Christian life designed on the drawing board, scientifically built, where it is sufficient to fulfil a few commandments to soothe consciences: Christian life is a humble path of a conscience never rigid and always relates to God, who knows how to repent and rely on Him in his poverty, without ever assuming that it is sufficient to itself. Thus we overcome the revised and up-to-date versions of that ancient evil, denounced by Jesus in the parable: hypocrisy, duplicity of life, clericalism that is accompanied by legalism, detachment from the people. The key word is repentance: it is repentance that allows us not to harden, to turn no to God into yes, and yes to sin into no for the sake of the Lord. The will of the Father, who every day gently speaks to our conscience, is carried out only in the form of repentance and continuous conversion. In the end, everyone has two paths ahead of them: to be repentant sinners or hypocritical sinners. But what matters is not the reasoning that justifies and attempts to save appearances, but a heart that moves forward with the Lord, struggles every day, repents and returns to Him. Because the Lord seeks the pure of heart, not pure "on the outside".
Thus we see, dear brothers and sisters, that the Word of God goes into the depths, "discerns the feelings and thoughts of the heart"(Heb 4:12). But it is also current: the parable also reminds us of the relationships, not always easy, between fathers and children. Today, at the rate at which one generation changes to the next, we feel more strongly the need for autonomy from the past, sometimes to the point of rebellion. But, after the closures and the long silences on one side or the other, it is good to recover the encounter, even if there are still conflicts simmering, which can become the stimulus to find a new balance. As in the family, so in the Church and in society: never give up encounter, dialogue, seek new ways to walk together.
The question often comes in the journey of the Church: where to go, how to move forward? I would like to leave you, at the end of this day, three reference points, three "P's". The first is the Word, which is the compass for humble walking, so as not to fall away from the way of God and fall into worldliness. The second is Bread, the Eucharistic bread, because from the Eucharist everything begins. It is in the Eucharist that we encounter the Church: not in gossip and chronicles, but here, in the Body of Christ shared by sinful and needy people, but who feel loved and then desire to love. From here we set off and meet again every time, this is the indispensable beginning of our being as a Church. The Eucharistic Congress proclaims it "out loud": the Church gathers like this, is born and lives around the Eucharist, with Jesus present and alive to worship, to receive and to give every day. Finally, the third P: the poor. Unfortunately, so many people lack the necessities. But there are also so many poor people of affection, lonely people, and poor people of God. In all of them we find Jesus, because Jesus in the world followed the path of poverty, of annihilation, as St Paul says in the second Reading: "Jesus emptied himself by assuming a condition of servant" (Ph 2:7) From the Eucharist to the poor, let us meet Jesus. You have reproduced the inscription that the Card. Lercaro loved to see engraved on the altar: "If we share the bread of heaven, how can we not share the earthly bread?" It will do us good to remember that all the time. The Word, the Bread, the poor: let us ask for the grace never to forget these basic foods that support us on our way.
Aperuit Illis 30.09.19
Apostolic Letter Instituting the Sunday of the Word of God
"He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45).
A Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people - the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Opening our hearts to the encounter with the Word of God fills us with joy. Listen attentively to the readings, without letting them go in one ear and out the other.
Nehemiah 8: 1-4a,5-6,7b-12. It is the story of the encounter of the people of God with the Word of God. It’s all a story of rebuilding.
The reading is centred on the reconstruction of the Temple and the return of the Jewish people from exile. The leaders of the people – the governor, Nehemiah; and Ezra, the scribe – "enthroned" the Word of God. They had gathered the people in the square in front of the Water Gate, and Ezra read from the scroll of the Law; afterwards, the priests explained the reading to the people. A beautiful thing. Consider how for decades this had not happened. It is the encounter of the people with their God, the encounter of the people with the Word of God.
We are used to having this book which is the Word of God, but we have gotten used to it in a bad way. The people in Ezra’s time, on the other hand, had been deprived of the Word, they hungered for the Word of God, and so when they saw the book of the Word they stood up.
Nehemiah, who was the governor; Ezra, the priest and scribe; and the priests who taught the people, said to all the people, "This day is consecrated to the Lord." For us, it is Sunday. Sunday is the day of the encounter of the people with the Lord, the day of the encounter of my family with the Lord. The day of my encounter with the Lord is a day of encounter. "This day is consecrated to the Lord."
For this reason, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the priests encouraged the people not to mourn and not to weep. The day’s first Reading says that the people wept when they heard the Word; but they wept from emotion, they wept from joy.
When we hear the Word of God, what happens in my heart? Do I pay attention to the Word of God? Do I let it touch my heart, or do I stand there staring at the ceiling thinking of other things, and the Word goes in one ear and out the other, and does not reach the heart? What do I do to prepare myself so that the Word will reach the heart? And when the Word reaches the heart, there are tears of joy and there is the feast. The feast of Sunday cannot be understood without the Word of God, it is not understood. "Then Nehemiah said to them, ‘Go, make a feast’ – and he gave a good recipe for a feast: Eat rich foods and drink sweet wines and send portions to those who have nothing’ – that is, to the poor. The poor are always the altar servers of the Christian feast, the poor! – because this day is consecrated to our Lord; do not be sad, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.
The encounter with the Word of God fills us with joy, and this joy is my strength, it is our strength. Christians are joyful because they have accepted, they have received the Word of God in their hearts, and they continually encounter the Word, they seek it out. This is the message for today, for all of us. A brief examination of conscience: ‘How do I listen to the Word of God? Or do I simply not listen? How do I encounter the Lord in His Word, which is the Bible?’ And then, ‘Am I convinced that the joy of the Lord is my strength?’ Sadness is not our strength.
The devil immediately casts down saddened hearts, while the joy of the Lord makes us rise up, look and sing, and weep with joy. One of the Psalms, says that at the moment of liberation from the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish people thought they were dreaming – they could not believe it. Our experience is similar, when we meet the Lord in His Word, when we think, "But this is a dream… and cannot believe such beauty."
May the Lord give us the grace to open our hearts for this encounter with His Word, and to not be afraid of joy, to not be afraid to make the feast of joy – that joy that flows precisely from this encounter with the Word of God.
“Jesus began to preach” (Mt 4:17). With these words, the evangelist Matthew introduces the ministry of Jesus. The One who is the Word of God has come to speak with us, in his own words and by his own life. On this first Sunday of the Word of God, let us go to the roots of his preaching, to the very source of the word of life. Today’s Gospel (Mt 4:12-23) helps us to know how, where and to whom Jesus began to preach.
1. How did he begin? With a very simple phrase: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 17). This is the main message of all Jesus’ sermons: to tell us that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. What does this mean? The kingdom of heaven means the reign of God, that is, the way in which God reigns through his relationship with us. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, that God is near. Here is the novelty, the first message: God is not far from us. The One who dwells in heaven has come down to earth; he became man. He has torn down walls and shortened distances. We ourselves did not deserve this: he came down to meet us. Now this nearness of God to his people is one of the ways he has done things since the beginning, even of the Old Testament. He said to his people: “Imagine: what nation has its gods so near to it as I am near to you?” (cf. Dt 4:7). And this nearness became flesh in Jesus.
This is a joyful message: God came to visit us in person, by becoming man. He did not embrace our human condition out of duty, no, but out of love. For love, he took on our human nature, for one embraces what one loves. God took our human nature because he loves us and desires freely to give us the salvation that, alone and unaided, we cannot hope to attain. He wants to stay with us and give us the beauty of life, peace of heart, the joy of being forgiven and feeling loved.
We can now understand the direct demand that Jesus makes: “Repent”, in other words, “Change your life”. Change your life, for a new way of living has begun. The time when you lived for yourself is over; now is the time for living with and for God, with and for others, with and for love. Today Jesus speaks those same words to you: “Take heart, I am here with you, allow me to enter and your life will change”. Jesus knocks at the door. That is why the Lord gives you his word, so that you can receive it like a love letter he has written to you, to help you realize that he is at your side. His word consoles and encourages us. At the same time it challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness and summons us to conversion. Because his word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light. This is the power of his word.
2. If we consider where Jesus started his preaching, we see that he began from the very places that were then thought to be “in darkness”. Both the first reading and the Gospel speak to us of people who “sat in the region and shadow of death”. They are the inhabitants of “the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, on the road by the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (Mt 4:15-16; cf. Is 8:23-9:1). Galilee of the nations, this region where Jesus began his preaching ministry, had been given this name because it was made up of people of different races and was home to a variety of peoples, languages and cultures. It was truly “on the road by the sea”, a crossroads. Fishermen, businessmen and foreigners all dwelt there. It was definitely not the place to find the religious purity of the chosen people. Yet Jesus started from there: not from the forecourt of the temple of Jerusalem, but from the opposite side of the country, from Galilee of the nations, from the border region. He started from a periphery.
Here there is a message for us: the word of salvation does not go looking for untouched, clean and safe places. Instead, it enters the complex and obscure places in our lives. Now, as then, God wants to visit the very places we think he will never go. Yet how often we are the ones who close the door, preferring to keep our confusion, our dark side and our duplicity hidden. We keep it locked up within, approaching the Lord with some rote prayers, wary lest his truth stir our hearts. And this is concealed hypocrisy. But as today’s Gospel tells us: “Jesus went about all Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity” (v. 23). He passed through all of that varied and complex region. In the same way, he is not afraid to explore the terrain of our hearts and to enter the roughest and most difficult corners of our lives. He knows that his mercy alone can heal us, his presence alone can transform us and his word alone can renew us. So let us open the winding paths of our hearts – those paths we have inside us that we do not wish to see or that we hide – to him, who walked “the road by the sea”; let us welcome into our hearts his word, which is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword… and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
3. Finally, to whom did Jesus begin to speak? The Gospel says that, “as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Mt 4:18-19). The first people to be called were fishermen: not people carefully chosen for their abilities or devout people at prayer in the temple, but ordinary working people.
Let us think about what Jesus said to them: I will make you fishers of men. He was speaking to fishermen, using the language they understood. Their lives changed on the spot. He called them where they were and as they were, in order to make them sharers in his mission. “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (v. 20). Why immediately? Simply because they felt drawn. They did not hurry off because they had received an order, but because they were drawn by love. To follow Jesus, mere good works are not enough; we have to listen daily to his call. He, who alone knows us and who loves us fully, leads us to put out into the deep of life. Just as he did with the disciples who heard him.
That is why we need his word: so that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us make room inside ourselves for the word of God! Each day, let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospel: let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket or bag, read it on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily. We will discover that God is close to us, that he dispels our darkness and, with great love, leads our lives into deep waters.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today's Gospel (cf. Matthew 4:12-23) presents us with the beginning of Jesus' public mission. This was in Galilee, a land on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and viewed with suspicion for its mingling with the gentiles. Nothing good and new was expected from that region; instead, it was there that Jesus, who had grown up in the Nazareth of Galilee, began his preaching.
He proclaimed the core of his teaching summed up in the call: "Convert, because the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (v. 17). This proclamation is like a powerful beam of light that crosses darkness and cuts through the fog, and it evokes the prophecy of Isaiah that is read on Christmas night: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone" (9:1). With the coming of Jesus, the light of the world, God the Father showed humanity his closeness and friendship. They are given to us free of charge beyond our merits. God's closeness and God's friendship are not our own merits: they are a free gift from God. We must cherish this gift.
The call to conversion, which Jesus addresses to all people of good will, can be fully understood precisely in the light of the event of the manifestation of the Son of God, on which we have meditated in the past Sundays. Often it seems impossible to change ones life, to abandon the path of selfishness, evil, and to abandon the path of sin because our commitment to conversion is focused only on ourselves and on our own strength, and not on Christ and His Spirit. But our adherence to the Lord cannot be reduced to a mere personal effort, no. Believing this also would be a sin of pride. Our adherence to the Lord cannot be reduced to a personal effort, but it must be expressed in a confident openness of heart and mind in order to receive the Good News of Jesus. It is this – the Word of Jesus, the Good News of Jesus, the Gospel – that changes the world and hearts! We are therefore called to trust the word of Christ, to open ourselves to the mercy of the Father and let ourselves be transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirt.
This is where the true journey of conversion path. Just as it happened to the first disciples: the encounter with the divine Master, with his gaze, with his word gave them the impetus to follow Him, to change their lives by putting their selves concretely at the service of the Kingdom of God.
The Word of Jesus has reached us thanks to these men. Simple fishermen who left their nets and said yes to Him, turning them into announcers and witnesses of God's love for his people. In imitation of these early heralds and messengers of the Word of God, may each of us can take steps in the saviour's footsteps, to offer hope to those who are thirsty for it.
May the Virgin Mary, to whom we turn in this prayer of the Angelus, sustain these intentions and strengthen them with her maternal intercession.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this Sunday's Gospel passage (cf. Mt 13:1-23), Jesus tells a great crowd the Parable - which we all know well - of the Sower, who casts seed over four different types of terrain. The Word of God, symbolized by the seeds is not an abstract Word, but is Christ himself, the Word of the Father who became flesh in Mary's womb. Therefore, embracing the Word of God means embracing the personage of Christ; of Christ Himself.
There are many ways to receive the Word of God. We may do so like a path, where birds immediately come and eat the seeds. This would be distraction, a great danger of our time. Beset by lots of small talk, by many ideologies, by continuous opportunities to be distracted inside and outside the home, we can lose our zest for silence, for reflection, for dialogue with the Lord, such that we risk losing our faith, not receiving the Word of God, as we are seeing everything, distracted by everything, by worldly things.
Another possibility: we may receive the Word of God like rocky ground, with little soil. There the seeds spring up quickly, but they soon wither away, because they are unable to sink roots to any depth. This is the image of those who receive the Word of God with momentary enthusiasm, though it remains superficial; it does not assimilate the Word of God. In this way, at the first difficulty, such as a discomfort or disturbance of life, that still-feeble faith dissolves, as the seed withers that falls among the rocks.
Again - a third possibility that of which Jesus speaks in the parable - we may receive the Word of God like ground where thorny bushes grow. And the thorns are the deceit of wealth, of success, of worldly concerns... There, the word grows a little, but becomes choked, it is not strong, and it dies or does not bear fruit.
Lastly - the fourth possibility - we may receive it like good soil. Here, and only here the seed takes root and bears fruit. The seed fallen upon this fertile soil represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, safeguard it in their heart and put it into practice in everyday life.
This Parable of the Sower is somewhat the 'mother' of all parables, because it speaks about listening to the Word. It reminds us that the Word of God is a seed which in itself is fruitful and effective; and God scatters it everywhere, paying no mind to waste. Such is the heart of God! Each one of us is ground on which the seed of the Word falls; no one is excluded! The Word is given to each one of us. We can ask ourselves: what type of terrain am I? Do I resemble the path, the rocky ground, the bramble bush? But, if we want, we can become good soil, ploughed and carefully cultivated, to help ripen the seed of the Word. It is already present in our heart, but making it fruitful depends on us; it depends on the embrace that we reserve for this seed.
Often one is distracted by too many interests, by too many enticements, and it is difficult to distinguish, among the many voices and many words, that of the Lord, the only one that makes us free. This is why it is important to accustom oneself to listening to the Word of God, to reading it. And I return once more to that advice: always keep with you a handy copy of the Gospel, a pocket edition of the Gospel, in your pocket, in your purse… and so, every day, read a short passage, so that you become used to reading the Word of God, understanding well the seed that God offers you, and thinking about the earth that receives it.
May the Virgin Mary, perfect model of good and fertile soil, help us, with her prayer, to become willing soil without thorns or rocks, so that we may bear good fruit for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
On this second Sunday after Christmas, the Word of God does not offer us an episode from the life of Jesus, but rather it tells us about Him before He was born. It takes us back to reveal something about Jesus before He came among us. It does so especially in the prologue of the Gospel of John, which begins: “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1:1). In the beginning: are the first words of the Bible, the same words with which the creation account begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). Today, the Gospel says that Jesus, the One we contemplated at His Birth, as an infant, existed before: before things began, before the universe, before everything. He existed before space and time. “In Him was life” (Jn 1:4), before life appeared.
Saint John calls Him the Logos, that is, the Word. What does he mean by this? The word is used to communicate: people do not speak alone, people speak with someone. One always speaks with someone. When we are in the street and we see people who talk to themselves, we say, “This person, something has happened to them…”. No, we always speak to someone. Now, the fact that Jesus was the Word from the very beginning means that from the beginning God wants to communicate with us, He wants to talk to us. The only-begotten Son of the Father (see v. 14) wants to tell us about the beauty of being children of God; He is “the true light” (v. 9) and wants to remove the darkness of evil from us; He is “the life” (v. 4), who knows our lives and wants to tell us that He has always loved them. He loves us all. Here is today’s wondrous message: Jesus is God’s Word, the eternal Word of God, who has always thought of us and wanted to communicate with us.
And to do so, He went beyond words. In fact, at the heart of today’s Gospel we are told that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). The Word became flesh: why does Saint John use this expression “flesh”? Could he not have said, in a more elegant way, that the Word was made man? No, he uses the word flesh because it indicates our human condition in all its weakness, in all its frailty. He tells us that God became fragile so He could touch our fragility up close. So, from the moment that the Lord became flesh, nothing about our life is extraneous to Him. There is nothing that He scorns, we can share everything with Him, everything. Dear brother, dear sister, God became flesh to tell us, to tell you that He loves us like that, in our frailty, in your frailty; right there, where we are most ashamed, where you are most ashamed. This is bold, God’s decision is bold: He took on flesh precisely where very often we are ashamed; He enters into our shame, to become our brother, to share the path of life.
He became flesh and never turned back. He did not put our humanity on like a garment that can be put on and taken off. No, He never detached Himself from our flesh. And He will never be separated from it: now and forever He is in heaven with His body made of human flesh. He has united Himself forever to our humanity; we might say that He “espoused” Himself to it. I like to think that when the Lord prays to the Father for us, He does not merely speak: He makes Him see the wounds of the flesh, He makes Him see the wounds He suffered for us. This is Jesus: with His flesh He is the intercessor, he wanted to bear even the signs of suffering. Jesus, with His flesh, is in front of the Father. Indeed, the Gospel says that He came to dwell among us. He did not come to visit us, and then leave; He came to dwell with us, to stay with us. What, then, does He desire from us? He desires a great intimacy. He wants us to share with Him our joys and sufferings, desires and fears, hopes and sorrows, people and situations. Let us do this, with confidence: let us open our hearts to Him, let us tell Him everything. Let us pause in silence before the crib to savour the tenderness of God who became near, who became flesh. And without fear, let us invite Him among us, into our homes, into our families. And also - everyone knows this well - let us invite Him into our frailties. Let us invite Him, so that He may see our wounds. He will come and life will change.
May the Holy Mother of God, in whom the Word became flesh, help us to welcome Jesus, who knocks on the door of our hearts to dwell with us.
On this Sunday of the Word, let us listen to Jesus as he proclaims the Kingdom of God. Let us consider what he says and to whom he says it.
What does he say? Jesus begins his preaching with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15). God is near, that is the first message. His kingdom has come down to earth. God is not, as we are often tempted to think, distant, up in heaven, detached from the human condition. No, he is in our midst. The time of his distance ended when, in Jesus, he became man. Ever since then, God has been very close to us; he will never retire from our human condition or tire of it. This closeness is the very first message of the Gospel; today’s reading tells us that Jesus “was saying” (v. 15) those words: he kept repeating them. “God is near” was the leitmotif of his preaching, the heart of his message. If this was the opening theme and the refrain of all Jesus’ preaching, it must necessarily be the one constant of the Christian life and message. Before all else, we must believe and proclaim that God has drawn near to us, that we have been forgiven and shown mercy. Prior to every word of ours about God, there is his word to us, his Word who continues to tell us: “Do not be afraid, I am with you. I am at your side and I will always be there”.
The word of God enables us to touch this closeness, since – as the Book of Deuteronomy tells us – it is not far from us, it is near to our hearts (cf. 30:14). It is the antidote to our fear of having to face life alone. Indeed, by his word the Lord consoles us, that is, he stands “with” (con-) those who are “alone” (soli). In speaking to us, he reminds us that he has taken us to heart, that we are precious in his eyes, and that he holds us in the palm of his hand. God’s word infuses this peace, but it does not leave us in peace. It is a word of consolation but also a call to conversion. “Repent”, says Jesus, immediately after proclaiming God’s closeness. For, thanks to his closeness, we can no longer distance ourselves from God and from others. The time when we could live thinking only of ourselves is now over. To do so is not Christian, for those who experience God’s closeness cannot ignore their neighbours or treat them with indifference. Those who hear God’s word are constantly reminded that life is not about shielding ourselves from others, but about encountering them in the name of God who is near. The word sown in the soil of our hearts, leads us in turn to sow hope through closeness to others. Even as God has done with us.
Let us now consider to whom Jesus speaks. His first words are to Galilean fishermen, simple folk who lived by harsh manual labour, by day and night. They were no experts in Scripture or people of great knowledge and culture. They lived in a region made up of various peoples, ethnic groups and cults: one that could not have been further from the religious purity of Jerusalem, the heart of the country. Yet that is where Jesus began, not from the centre but from the periphery, and he did so in order to tell us too that no one is far from God’s heart. Everyone can receive his word and encounter him in person. The Gospel offers a nice detail in this regard, when it tells us that Jesus’ preaching came “after” that of John (Mk 1:14). That word after is decisive: it points to a difference. John received people in the desert, where only those able to leave their homes could go. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks of God in the heart of society, to everyone, wherever they find themselves. He does not speak at fixed times or places, but “walking along the shore”, to fishermen who were “casting their nets” (v. 16). He speaks to people in the most ordinary times and places. Here we see the universal power of the word of God to reach everyone and every area of life.
Yet the word of God also has particular power, that is, it can touch each person directly. The disciples would never forget the words they heard that day on the shore of the lake, by their boats, in the company of their family members and fellow workers: words that marked their lives forever. Jesus said to them: “Follow me, I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17). He did not appeal to them using lofty words and ideas, but spoke to their lives. He told fishermen that they were to be fishers of men. If he had told them: “Follow me, I will make you Apostles, you will be sent into the world to preach the Gospel in the power of the Spirit; you will be killed, but you will become saints”, we can be sure that Peter and Andrew would have answered: “Thanks, but we’ll stick to our nets and our boats!” But Jesus spoke to them in terms of their own livelihood: “You are fishermen, and you will become fishers of men”. Struck by those words, they come to realize that lowering their nets for fish was too little, whereas putting out into the deep in response to the word of Jesus was the secret of true joy. The Lord does the same with us: he looks for us where we are, he loves us as we are, and he patiently walks by our side. As he did with those fishermen, he waits for us on the shore of our life. With his word, he wants to change us, to invite us to live fuller lives and to put out into the deep together with him.
So dear brothers and sisters, let us not ignore God’s word. It is a love letter, written to us by the One who knows us best. In reading it, we again hear his voice, see his face and receive his Spirit. That word brings us close to God. Let us not keep it at arm’s length, but carry it with us always, in our pocket, on our phone. Let us give it a worthy place in our homes. Let us set the Gospel in a place where we can remember to open it daily, perhaps at the beginning and at the end of the day, so that amid all those words that ring in our ears, there may also be a few verses of the word of God that can touch our hearts. To be able to do this, let us ask the Lord for the strength to turn off the television and open the Bible, to turn off our cell phone and open the Gospel. During this liturgical year, we are reading Saint Mark, the simplest and the shortest of the Gospels. Why not read it at home too, even a brief passage each day. It will make us feel God’s closeness to us and fill us with courage as we make our way through life.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In today’s liturgy, the Gospel presents a scribe who approaches Jesus and asks him: “Which commandment is the first of all?” (Mk 12:28). Jesus responds by citing Scripture and confirms that the first commandment is to love God; from this one then derives the second, as a natural consequence: to love one’s neighbour as oneself (cf. vv. 29-31). Hearing this response, the scribe not only recognises that he is right, but in doing so, in recognising that he is right, he repeats the same words Jesus had said: “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that…to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself is more than a whole burnt offering and sacrifices” (vv. 32-33).
But, we can ask ourselves, in giving his assent, why did that scribe feel the need to repeat Jesus’ same words? This repetition seems to be more surprising if we think that this is the Gospel of Mark, who has a very concise style. So, what could this repetition mean? This repetition is a teaching for all of us who are listening. For the Word of the Lord cannot be received as any other type of news. The Word of the Lord must be repeated, made one’s own, safeguarded. The monastic tradition, of the monks, uses an audacious but very concrete term. It goes thus: the Word of God must be “ruminated”. “To ruminate” the Word of God. We could say that it is so nutritious that it must be ruminated in every aspect of life: to involve, as Jesus says today, the entire heart, the entire soul, the entire mind, all of our strength (cf. v. 30). The Word of the Lord must resound, echo and re-echo within us. When there is this interior echo that repeats itself, it means that the Lord dwells in the heart. And he says to us, just as he did to that excellent scribe in the Gospel: “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v. 34).
Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord is not so much looking for skilled Scripture commentators, as he is looking for docile hearts which, welcoming his Word, allow themselves to be changed inside. This is why it is so important to be familiar with the Gospel, to always have it at hand – even a pocket-size Gospel in our pockets, in our purses to read and reread, to be passionate about it. When we do this, Jesus, the Word of the Father, enters into our hearts, he becomes intimate with us and we bear fruit in Him. Let’s take for example today’s Gospel: it is not enough to read it and understand that we need to love God and our neighbour. It is necessary that this commandment, which is the “great commandment”, resound in us, that it be assimilated, that it become the voice of our conscience. This way, it does not remain a dead letter, in the drawer of the heart, because the Holy Spirit makes the seed of that Word germinate in us. And the Word of God works, it is always in motion, it is alive and effective (cf. Heb 4:12). So each one of us can become a living, different and original “translation”, not a repetition but a living, different and original “translation” of the one Word of love that God gives us. This is what we see in the lives of the Saints for example. None of them is the same as another, they are all different, but with the same Word of God.
Today, therefore, let us take the example of this scribe. Let us repeat Jesus’ words, making them resound in us: “To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength and my neighbour as myself”. And let us ask ourselves: does this commandment truly orient my life? Does this commandment resonate in my daily life? It would be good this evening, before going to sleep, to make an examination of conscience on this Word, to see if we have loved the Lord today and if we have done a little good to those we happened to meet. May every encounter bring about a little bit of good, a little bit of love that comes from this Word. May the Virgin Mary, in whom the Word of God was made flesh, teach us to welcome the living word of the Gospel in our hearts.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
Today’s Liturgy offers us a beautiful phrase, that we always pray in the Angelus and which by itself reveals to us the meaning of Christmas. It says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. These words, if we think about it, contain a paradox. They bring together two opposites: the Word and the flesh. “Word” indicates that Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father, infinite, existing from all time, before all created things; “flesh”, on the other hand, indicates precisely our created reality, fragile, limited, mortal. Before Jesus there were two separate worlds: Heaven opposed to earth, the infinite opposed to the finite, spirit opposed to matter. And there is another opposition in the Prologue of the Gospel of John, another binomial: word and flesh are a binomial; the other binomial is light and darkness (cf. v. 5). Jesus is the light of God who has entered into the darkness of the world. Light and darkness. God is light: in him there is no opacity; in us, on the other hand, there is much darkness. Now, with Jesus, light and darkness meet: holiness and sin, grace and sin. Jesus, the incarnation of Jesus is the very place of the encounter, the encounter between God and humanity, the encounter between grace and sin.
What does the Gospel intend to announce with these polarities? Something splendid: God’s way of acting. Faced with our frailties, the Lord does not withdraw. He does not remain in his blessed eternity and in his infinite light, but rather he draws close, he makes himself incarnate, he descends into the darkness, he dwells in lands that are foreign to him. And why does God do this? Why does he come down to us? He does this because he does not resign himself to the fact that we can go astray by going far from him, far from eternity, far from the light. This is God's work: to come among us. If we consider ourselves unworthy, that does not stop him: he comes. If we reject him, He does not tire of seeking us out. If we are not ready and willing to receive him, he prefers to come anyway. And if we close the door in his face, he waits. He is truly the Good Shepherd. And the most beautiful image of the Good Shepherd? The Word that becomes flesh to share in our life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who comes to seek us right where we are: in our problems, in our suffering… He comes there.
Dear brothers and sisters, often we keep our distance from God because we think we are not worthy of him for other reasons. And it is true. But Christmas invites us to see things from his point of view. God wishes to be incarnate. If your heart seems too contaminated by evil, if it seems disordered, please, do not close yourself up, do not be afraid: he will come. Think of the stable in Bethlehem. Jesus was born there, in that poverty, to tell us that he is certainly not afraid of visiting your heart, of dwelling in a shabby life. And this is the word: to dwell. To dwell is the verb used in today’s Gospel to signify this reality: it expresses a total sharing, a great intimacy. And this is what God wants: he wants to dwell with us, he wants to dwell in us, not to remain distant.
And I ask myself, you, all of us: what about us, do we want to make space for him? In words yes, no-one will say, “I don’t!”; yes. But in practice? Perhaps there are aspects of life we keep to ourselves, that are exclusive, or inner spaces that we are afraid the Gospel will enter into, where we do not want God to be involved. Today I invite you to be specific. What are the inner things that I believe God does not like? What is the space that I believe is only for me, where I do not want God to come? Let each of us be specific, and answer this. “Yes, yes, I would like Jesus to come, but this, he mustn’t touch it; and this, no, and this...”. Everyone has their own sin - let us call it by name. And He is not afraid of our sins: He came to heal us. Let us at least let Him see it, let Him see the sin. Let us be brave, let us say: “But, Lord, I am in this situation but I do not want to change. But you, please, don’t go too far away”. That's a good prayer. Let’s be sincere today.
In these days of Christmas, it will do us good to welcome the Lord precisely there. How? For example, by stopping in front of the Nativity scene, because it shows Jesus who came to dwell in all our real, ordinary life, where not everything goes well, where there are many problems: we are to blame for some of them; others are the fault of other people. And Jesus comes: the shepherds who work hard, we see the shepherds there, Herod who threatens the innocent, great poverty… But in the midst of all this, in the midst of so many problems – and even in the midst of our problems – there is God, there is God who wants to dwell with us. And he waits for us to present to him our situations, that we are living. So, before the Nativity, let us talk to Jesus about our real situations. Let us invite him officially into our lives, especially in the dark areas: “Look, Lord, there is no light there, the electricity doesn’t reach there, but please don’t touch, because I don’t feel like leaving this situation”. Speak clearly and plainly. The dark areas, our “inner stables”; each one of us has them. And let us also tell him, without fear, about the social problems, and the ecclesial problems of our time, even personal problems, even the worst, because God loves to dwell: in our stable.
May the Mother of God, in whom the Word was made flesh, help us to cultivate greater intimacy with the Lord.
In the first reading and in the Gospel, we find two parallel acts. Ezra the priest lifts up the book of the law of God, opens it and reads it aloud before the people. Jesus, in the synagogue of Nazareth, opens the scroll of the Sacred Scripture and reads a passage of the prophet Isaiah in the presence of all. Both scenes speak to us of a fundamental reality: at the heart of the life of God’s holy people and our journey of faith are not ourselves and our own words. At its heart is God and his word.
Everything started with the word that God spoke to us. In Christ, his eternal Word, the Father “chose us before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). By that Word, he created the universe: “he spoke, and it came to be” (Ps 33:9). From of old, he spoke to us through the prophets (cf. Heb 1:1), and finally, in the fullness of time (cf. Gal 4:4), he sent us that same Word, his only-begotten Son. That is why, in the Gospel, after reading from Isaiah, Jesus says something completely unexpected: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled” (Lk 4:21). Fulfilled: the word of God is no longer a promise, but is now fulfilled. In Jesus, it has taken flesh. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it has come to dwell among us and it desires to continue to dwell in our midst, in order to fulfil our expectations and to heal our wounds.
Sisters and brothers, let us keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, like those in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. v. 20). They kept looking at him, for he was one of them, and asking, “What is this novelty? What will he do, this one, about whom everyone is speaking?” And let us embrace his word. Today let us reflect on two interconnected aspects of this: the word reveals God and the word leads us to man. The word is at the centre: it reveals God and leads us to man.
First, the word reveals God. Jesus, at the beginning of his mission, commenting on the words of the prophet Isaiah, announces a clear decision: he has come to liberate the poor and the oppressed (cf. v. 18). In this way, precisely through the scriptures, he reveals the face of God as one who cares for our poverty and takes to heart our destiny. God is not an overlord (padrone), aloof and on high – an ugly but untrue image of God – but a Father (Padre) who follows our every step. He is no cold bystander, detached and impassible, a “God of mathematics”. He is God-with-us, passionately concerned about our lives and engaged in them, even sharing our tears. He is no neutral and indifferent god, but the Spirit, the lover of mankind, who defends us, counsels us, defends us, sustains us and partakes of our pain. He is always present. This is the “good news” (v. 18) that Jesus proclaims to the amazement of all: God is close at hand, and he wants to care for me and for you, for everyone. That is how God is: close. He even defines himself as closeness. In Deuteronomy, he says to the people: “What other people has gods as close to them as I am to you?” (cf. Deut 4:7). A God of closeness, of compassionate and tender closeness. He wants to relieve the burdens that crush you, to warm your wintry coldness, to brighten your daily dreariness and to support your faltering steps. This he does by his word, by the word he speaks to rekindle hope amid the ashes of your fears, to help you rediscover joy in the labyrinths of your sorrows, to fill with hope your feelings of solitude. He makes you move forward, not in a labyrinth, but on a daily journey to find him.
Brothers and sisters: let us ask ourselves: do we bear within our hearts this liberating image of God, the God of closeness, compassion and tenderness, or do we think of him as a merciless judge, an accountant who keeps a record of every moment of our lives? Is ours a faith that generates hope and joy, or, among us, a faith still weighed down by fear, a fearful faith? What is the face of God that we proclaim in the Church? The Saviour who liberates and heals, or the Terrifying God who burdens us with feelings of guilt? In order to convert us to the true God, Jesus shows us where to start: from his word. That word, by telling us the story of God’s love for us, liberates us from the fears and preconceptions about him that stifle the joy of faith. That word overthrows false idols, unmasks our projections, destroys our all too human images of God and brings us back to see his true face, his mercy. The word of God nurtures and renews faith: let us put it back at the centre of our prayer and our spiritual life! Let us put at the centre the word that reveals to us what God is like. The word that draws us close to God.
Now the second aspect: the word leads us to man. To God and to man. Precisely when we discover that God is compassionate love, we overcome the temptation to shut ourselves up in a religiosity reduced to external worship, one that fails to touch and transform our lives. This is idolatry, hidden and refined, but idolatry all the same. God’s word drives us to go forth from ourselves and to encounter our brothers and sisters solely with the quiet power of God’s liberating love. That is exactly what Jesus shows us in the synagogue of Nazareth: he has been sent forth to the poor – all of us – to set them free. He has not come to deliver a set of rules or to officiate at some religious ceremony; rather, he has descended to the streets of our world in order to encounter our wounded humanity, to caress faces furrowed by suffering, to bind up broken hearts and to set us free from chains that imprison the soul. In this way, he shows us the worship most pleasing to God: caring for our neighbour. We need to come back to this. Whenever in the Church there are temptations to rigidity, which is a perversion, whenever we think that finding God means becoming more rigid, with more rules, right things, clear things… it is not the way. When we see proposals of rigidity, let us think immediately: this is an idol, it is not God. Our God is not that way.
Sisters and brothers, the word of God changes us. Rigidity does not change us, it hides us; the word of God changes us. It penetrates our soul like a sword (cf. Heb 4:12). If, on the one hand it consoles us by showing us the face of God, on the other, it challenges and disturbs us, reminding us of our inconsistencies. It shakes us up. It does not bring us peace at the price of accepting a world rent by injustice and hunger, where the price is always paid by the weakest. They always end up paying. God’s word challenges the self-justification that makes us blame everything that goes wrong on other persons and situations. How much pain do we feel in seeing our brothers and sisters dying at sea because no one will let them come ashore! And some people do this in God’s name. The word of God invites us to come out into the open, not to hide behind the complexity of problems, behind the excuse that “nothing can be done about it” or “it’s somebody else’s problem”, or “what can I do?”, “leave them there”. The word of God urges us to act, to combine worship of God and care for man. For sacred scripture has not been given to us for our entertainment, to coddle us with an angelic spirituality, but to make us go forth and encounter others, drawing near to their wounds. I spoke of rigidity, that modern pelagianism that is one of the temptations of the Church. And this other temptation, that of seeking an angelic spirituality, is to some extent the other temptation today: gnostic movements, a gnosticism, that proposes a word of God that puts you “in orbit” and does not make you touch reality. The Word that became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14) wishes to become flesh in us. His word does not remove us from life, but plunges us into life, into everyday life, into listening to the sufferings of others and the cry of the poor, into the violence and injustice that wound society and our world. It challenges us, as Christians, not to be indifferent, but active, creative Christians, prophetic Christians.
“Today” – says Jesus – “this scripture has been fulfilled” (Lk 4:21). The Word wishes to take flesh today, in the times in which we are living, not in some ideal future. A French mystic of the last century, who chose to experience the Gospel in the peripheries, wrote that the word of God is not “a ‘dead letter’; it is spirit and life… The listening that the word of the Lord demands of us is our ‘today’: the circumstances of our daily life and the needs of our neighbour” (Madeleine Delbrêl, La joie de croire, Paris, 1968). Let us ask, then: do we want to imitate Jesus, to become ministers of liberation and consolation for others, putting the word into action? Are we a Church that is docile to the word? A Church inclined to listen to others, engaged in reaching out to raise up our brothers and sisters from all that oppresses them, to undo the knots of fear, to liberate those most vulnerable from the prisons of poverty, from interior ennui and the sadness that stifles life? Isn’t that what we want?
In this celebration, some of our brothers and sisters will be instituted as readers and catechists. They are called to the important work of serving the Gospel of Jesus, of proclaiming him, so that his consolation, his joy and his liberation can reach everyone. That is also the mission of each one of us: to be credible messengers, prophets of God’s word in the world. Consequently, let us grow passionate about sacred scripture, let us be willing to dig deep within the word that reveals God’s newness and leads us tirelessly to love others. Let us put the word of God at the centre of the Church’s life and pastoral activity! In this way, we will be liberated from all rigid pelagianism, from all rigidity, set free from the illusion of a spirituality that puts you “in orbit”, unconcerned about caring for our brothers and sisters. Let us put the word of God at the centre of the Church’s life and pastoral activity. Let us listen to that word, pray with it, and put it into practice.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In the Gospel of today's liturgy, we see Jesus beginning his preaching (cf. Lk 4:14-21): it is Jesus’ first sermon. He goes to Nazareth, where he grew up, and participates in prayer in the synagogue. He gets up to read and, in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he finds the passage regarding the Messiah, who proclaims a message of consolation and liberation for the poor and oppressed (cf. Is 61:1-2). At the end of the reading, “the eyes of all… were fixed on him” (v. 20). And Jesus begins by saying: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled” (v. 21). Let us dwell on this today. It is the first word of Jesus’ preaching recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Pronounced by the Lord, it indicates a “today” that runs through all ages and always remains valid. The Word of God is always “today”. It begins with a “today”: when you read the Word of God, a “today” begins in your soul, if you understand it well. Today. Isaiah’s prophecy dates back centuries, but Jesus, “in the power of the Spirit” (v. 14), makes it relevant and, above all, brings it to fulfilment, and shows how to receive the Word of God: today. It is not like ancient history, no: today. Today, it speaks to your heart.
Jesus' fellow countrymen are struck by his word. Although, clouded by prejudice, they do not believe him, they realize that his teaching is different from that of the other teachers (cf. v. 22): they sense that there is more to Jesus. What is there? There is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it happens that our sermons and our teachings remain generic, abstract; they do not touch the soul and the life of the people. And why? Because they lack the power of this today; what Jesus “fills with meaning” by the power of the Spirit, is today. Today is speaking to you. Yes, at times one hears impeccable conferences, well-constructed speeches, but they do not move the heart and so everything remains as before. Even many homilies – I say it with respect but with pain – are abstract, and instead of awakening the soul, they put it to sleep. When the faithful start looking at their watches – “when is this going to end?” – they put the soul to sleep. Preaching runs this risk: without the anointing of the Spirit, it impoverishes the Word of God, and descends to moralism and abstract concepts; it presents the Gospel with detachment, as if it were outside time, far from reality. And this is not the way. But a word in which the power of today does not pulsate is not worthy of Jesus and does not help people’s lives. That is why those who preach, please, are the first to experience the today of Jesus, so as to be able to communicate it in the today of others. And if they want to give lectures, conferences, let them do so, but elsewhere, not at the time of the homily, where they must give the Word in a way that rouses hearts.
Dear brothers and sisters, on this Sunday of the Word of God I would like to thank the preachers and proclaimers of the Gospel who remain faithful to the Word that rouses the heart, who remain faithful to “today”. Let us pray for them, that they may live the today of Jesus, the sweet power of his Spirit that makes the Scriptures come alive. The Word of God, is indeed alive and effective (cf. Heb 4:12); it changes us, it enters into our affairs, it illuminates our daily lives, it comforts and brings order. Remember: the Word of God transforms an ordinary day into the today in which God speaks to us. So, let us pick up the Gospel and choose each day a small passage to read and re-read. Keep the Gospel in your pocket or your bag, to read it on your travels, at any moment, and read it calmly. In time we will discover that these words are made especially for us, for our life. They will help us to welcome each day with a better, more serene outlook, because when the Gospel enters into today’s world, it fills it with God. I would like to make a suggestion. On the Sundays of this liturgical year the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of mercy, is proclaimed. Why not also read it personally, all of it, one small passage each day? A short passage. Let us familiarize ourselves with the Gospel, it will bring us the newness and joy of God!
The Word of God is also the beacon that guides the synodal journey that has begun throughout the Church. As we strive to listen to each other, with attention and discernment – because it is not a question of opinion, no, but of discerning the Word, there – let us listen together to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. And may Our Lady obtain for us the constancy to nourish ourselves with the Gospel every day.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of this Sunday’s Liturgy presents us with a lively domestic scene with Martha and Mary, two sisters who extend their hospitality to Jesus in their home (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Martha immediately sets about welcoming the guests, whereas Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to him. Then Martha turns to the Master and asks him to tell Mary to help her. Martha’s complaint does not seem out of place; indeed, we would tend to agree with her. Yet Jesus answers her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but few things are needed. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42). This is a surprising answer. But Jesus overturns our way of thinking many times. So, let us ask ourselves why the Lord, while appreciating Martha’s generous care, says that Mary's behaviour is to be preferred.
Martha’s “philosophy” seems to be this: first duty, then pleasure. In effect, hospitality is not composed of fine words, but demands that you put your hand to the stove, that everything necessary is done so the guest feels welcome. Jesus is well aware of this. And indeed, he acknowledges Martha’s effort. However, he wants to make her understand that there is a new order of priorities, different from the one she had followed until then. Mary had intuited that there is a “better part” that must be accorded first place. Everything else comes after, like a stream flowing from the source. And so we wonder: what is this “better part”? It is listening to Jesus’ words. The Gospel says Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he was saying” (v. 39). Note: she did not listen while standing, doing other things, but she sat at Jesus’ feet. She understood that he is not like other guests. At first sight it seems that he has come to receive, because he needs food and lodging, but in reality, the Master came to give himself to us through his word.
The word of Jesus is not abstract; it is a teaching that touches and shapes our life, changes it, frees it from the opaqueness of evil, satisfies and infuses it with a joy that does not pass: Jesus’ word is the better part, that Mary had chosen. Therefore, she gives it first place: she stops and listens. The rest will come after. This does not detract from the value of practical effort, but it must not precede, but rather flow from listening to the word of Jesus. It must be enlivened by his Spirit. Otherwise, it is reduced to fussing and fretting over many things, it is reduced to sterile activism.
Brothers and sisters, let us take advantage of this summer vacation time to stop and listen to Jesus. Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to find free time to meditate. For many people the rhythm of life is frenetic and wearisome. Summertime can be valuable also for opening the Gospel and reading it slowly, without haste, a passage each day, a short passage from the Gospel. And this lets us enter into this dynamic of Jesus. Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those pages, asking ourselves how our life, my life, is going, if it is in line with what Jesus says, or not so much. In particular, let us ask ourselves: When I start my day, do I throw myself headlong into the things to be done, or do I first seek inspiration in the Word of God? At times we begin the day automatically, we start doing things … like hens. No, We must start the day by first of all looking to the Lord, taking his Word, briefly, but let this be the inspiration for the day. If we leave the house in the morning keeping a word of Jesus in mind, the day will surely acquire a tone marked by that word, which has the power to orient our actions according to the wishes of the Lord.
May the Virgin Mary teach us to choose the better part, which will never be taken from us.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In the Gospel of today’s liturgy there is an expression of Jesus which always strikes us and challenges us. While he is walking with his disciples, he says: “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). What fire is he talking about? And what is the meaning of these words for us today, this fire that Jesus brings?
As we know, Jesus came to bring to the world the Gospel, that is, the good news of God’s love for each one of us. Therefore, he is telling us that the Gospel is like a fire, because it is a message that, when it erupts into history, burns the old balances of living, burns the old balances of living, challenges us to come out of our individualism, challenges us to overcome selfishness, challenges us to shift from the slavery of sin and death to the new life of the Risen One, of the Risen Jesus. In other words, the Gospel does not leave things as they are; when the Gospel passes, and is listened to and received, things do not stay as they are. The Gospel provokes change and invites conversion. It does not dispense a false intimist peace, but sparks a restlessness that sets us in motion, and drives us to open up to God and to our brothers. It is just like fire: while it warms us with God’s love, it wants to burn our selfishness, to enlighten the dark sides of life – we all have them, eh! – to consume the false idols that enslave us.
In the wake of the Biblical prophets – think, for example, of Elijah and Jeremiah – Jesus is inflamed by God’s love and, to make it spread throughout the world, he expends himself personally, loving up to the end, that is, up to death, and death on the cross (cf. Phil 2:8). He is filled with the Holy Spirit, who is compared to fire, and with his light and his strength, he unveils the mysterious face of God and gives fullness to those considered lost, breaks down the barriers of marginalization, heals the wounds of the body and the soul, and renews a religiosity that was reduced to external practices. This is why he is fire: he changes, purifies.
So, what does that word of Jesus mean for us, for each one of us – for me, for you, for you – what does this word of Jesus, about fire, mean for us? It invites us to rekindle the flame of faith, so that it does not become a secondary matter, or a means to individual wellbeing, enabling us to evade the challenges of life or commitment in the Church and society. Indeed – as a theologian said – faith in God “reassures us – but not on our level, or so to produce a paralyzing illusion, or a complacent satisfaction, but so as to enable us to act” (De Lubac, The Discovery of God). In short, faith is not a “lullaby” that lulls us to sleep. True faith is a fire, a living flame to keep us wakeful and active even at night!
And then, we might wonder: am I passionate about the Gospel? Do I read the Gospel often? Do I carry it with me? Does the faith I profess and celebrate lead me to complacent tranquility or does it ignite the flame of witness in me? We can also ask ourselves this question as. Church: in our communities, does the fire of the Spirit burn, with the passion for prayer and charity, and the joy of faith? Or do we drag ourselves along in weariness and habit, with a downcast face, and a lament on our lips, and gossip every day? Brothers and sisters, let us examine ourselves on this, so that we too can say, like Jesus: we are inflamed with the fire of God’s love, and we want to spread it around the world, to take it to everyone, so that each person may discover the tenderness of the Father and experience the joy of Jesus, who enlarges the heart – and Jesus enlarges the heart! – and makes life beautiful. Let us pray to the Holy Virgin for this: may she, who welcomed the fire of the Holy Spirit, intercede for us.
Jesus leaves the quiet and hidden life of Nazareth and moves to Capernaum, a port city located along the Sea of Galilee, at the crossroads of different peoples and cultures. The urgency that impels him is the proclamation of the Word of God, which must be brought to everyone. Indeed, we see in the Gospel that the Lord invites all to conversion and calls the first disciples so that they may also spread the light of the Word to others (cf. Mt 4:12-23). Let us appreciate this dynamism, which will help us live out the Sunday of the Word of God: the Word is for everyone, the Word calls everyone to conversion, the Word makes us heralds.
The Word of God is for everyone. The Gospel presents us with Jesus always on the move, on his way to others. On no occasion in his public life does he give us the idea that he is a stationary teacher, a professor seated on a chair; on the contrary, we see him as an itinerant, we see him as a pilgrim, travelling through towns and villages, encountering faces and their stories. His feet are those of the messenger announcing the good news of God’s love (cf. Is 52:7-8). In Galilee of the Gentiles, on the sea route, beyond the Jordan, where Jesus preaches, there was – the text notes – a people plunged into darkness: foreigners, pagans, women and men from various regions and cultures (cf. Mt 4:15-16). Now they too can see the light. And so Jesus “enlarges the boundaries”: the Word of God, which heals and raises up, is not only destined for the righteous of Israel, but for all; he wants to reach those far away, he wants to heal the sick, he wants to save sinners, he wants to gather the lost sheep and lift up those whose hearts are weary and oppressed. In short, Jesus ‘reaches out’ to tell us that God’s mercy is for everyone. Let us not forget this: God’s mercy is for everyone, for each one of us. Each person can say, “God’s mercy is for me”.
This aspect is fundamental also for us. It reminds us that the Word is a gift addressed to everyone; therefore we can never restrict its field of action, for beyond all our calculations, it springs forth in a spontaneous, unforeseen and unpredictable way (cf. Mk 4:26-28), in the ways and times that the Holy Spirit knows. Moreover, if salvation is destined for all, even the most distant and lost, then the proclamation of the Word must become the main priority of the ecclesial community, as it was for Jesus. May it not happen that we profess a God with an expansive heart, yet become a Church with a closed heart – this, I dare say, would be a curse; may it not happen that we preach salvation for all, yet make the way to receive it impractical; may it not happen that we recognize we are called to proclaim the Kingdom, yet neglect the Word, losing ourselves in so many secondary activities or discussions. Let us learn from Jesus to put the Word at the centre, to enlarge our boundaries, to open ourselves up to people, and to foster experiences of encounter with the Lord, realizing that the Word of God “is not encased in abstract or static formulas, but has a dynamic power in history which is made up of persons and events, words and actions, developments and tensions”. 
Let us now come to the second aspect: the Word of God, which is addressed to all, calls everyone to conversion. In fact, Jesus repeats in his preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). This means that God’s nearness is not inconsequential, his presence does not leave things as they are, it does not advocate a quiet life. On the contrary, his Word shakes us, disturbs us, incites us to change, to conversion. It throws us into crisis because it “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Like a sword, the Word penetrates life, enabling us to discern the feelings and thoughts of the heart, that is, making us see where the light of goodness is to be afforded room and where, instead, the thick darkness of vices and sins is to be resisted. When it enters us, the Word transforms our hearts and minds; it changes us and leads us to direct our lives to the Lord.
Here is Jesus’ invitation: God has come close to you; recognize his presence, make room for his Word, and you will change your outlook on life. I can also put it like this: place your life under the Word of God. This is the path the Church shows us. All of us, even the pastors of the Church, are under the authority of the Word of God. Not under our own tastes, tendencies and preferences, but under the one Word of God that moulds us, converts us and calls us to be united in the one Church of Christ. So, brothers and sisters, we can ask ourselves: Where does my life find direction, from where does it draw its orientation? From the many “words” I hear, from ideologies, or from the Word of God that guides and purifies me? What are the aspects in me that require change and conversion?
Finally – the third step – the Word of God, which is addressed to everyone and calls us to conversion, makes us heralds. Indeed, Jesus walks along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and calls Simon and Andrew, two brothers who were fishermen. With his Word he invites them to follow him, telling them that he will make them “fishers of men” (Mt. 4,19): no longer just experts in boats, nets and fish, but experts in seeking others. And just as in sailing and fishing they had learned to leave the shore and cast their nets into the deep, in the same way they would become apostles capable of sailing upon the open seas of the world, of going out to meet their brothers and sisters and proclaiming the joy of the Gospel. This is the dynamism of the Word: it draws us into the “net” of the Father’s love and makes us apostles moved by an unquenchable desire to bring all those we encounter into the barque of the Kingdom. This is not proselytism because it is the Word of God that calls us, not our own word.
Today let us also hear the invitation to be fishers of men: let us feel that we are called by Jesus in person to proclaim his Word, to bear witness to it in everyday life, to live it in justice and charity, called to “give it flesh” by tenderly caring for those who suffer. This is our mission: to become seekers of the lost, oppressed and discouraged, not to bring them ourselves, but the consolation of the Word, the disruptive proclamation of God that transforms life, to bring the joy of knowing that He is our Father and addresses each one of us, to bring the beauty of saying, “Brother, sister, God has come close to you, listen and you will find in his Word an amazing gift!”
Brothers and sisters, I would like to conclude by simply thanking those who work to make sure that the Word of God is shared, proclaimed and put at the centre of our lives. Thank you to those who study and delve into the riches of the Word. Thank you to the pastoral workers and to all Christians engaged in the work of listening to and spreading the Word, especially lectors and catechists. Today I will confer these ministries on some of you. Thank you to those who have accepted the many invitations I have made to take the Gospel with them everywhere and to read it every day. And finally, I especially thank our deacons and priests. Thank you dear brothers, for you do not let God’s holy people be deprived of the nourishment of the Word. Thank you for committing yourselves to meditating on it, living it and proclaiming it. Thank you for your service and your sacrifices. May the sweet joy of proclaiming the Word of salvation be a consolation and reward for all of us.
 The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, Instrumentum laboris for the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 2008, n. 10.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
The Gospel of this first Sunday of Lent presents to us Jesus in the desert, tempted by the devil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). “Devil” means “divider”. The devil always wants to create division, and it is what he sets out to do by tempting Jesus. Let us see, then, from whom he wants to divide him, and how he tempts him.
From whom does the devil want to divide Jesus? After receiving Baptism from John in the Jordan, Jesus was called by the Father “my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17), and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove (cf. v. 16). The Gospel thus presents us the three divine Persons joined in love. Then Jesus himself will say that he came into the world to make us, too, partake in the unity between him and the Father (cf. Jn 17:11). The devil, instead, does the opposite: he enters the scene to divide Jesus from the Father and to distract him from his mission of unity for us. He always divides.
Let us now see how he tries to do it. The devil wants to take advantage of the human condition of Jesus, who is weak as he has fasted for forty days and is hungry (cf. Mt 4:2). The evil one then tries to instil in him three powerful “poisons”, to paralyse his mission of unity. These poisons are attachment, mistrust, and power. First and foremost, the poison of attachment to material goods, to needs; with persuasive arguments the devil tries to convince Jesus: “You are hungry, why must you fast? Listen to your need and satisfy it, you have the right and the power: transform the stones into bread”. Then the second poison, mistrust: “Are you sure the Father wants what is good for you? Test him, blackmail him! Throw yourself down from the highest point of the temple and make him do what you want”. Finally, power: “You have no need for your Father! Why wait for his gifts? Follow the criteria of the world, take everything for yourself, and you will be powerful!”. The three temptations of Jesus. And we too live among these temptations, always. It is terrible, but that is just how it is, for us too: attachment to material things, mistrust and the thirst for power are three widespread and dangerous temptations, which the devil uses to divide us from the Father and to make us no longer feel like brothers and sisters among ourselves, to lead us to solitude and desperation. He wanted to do this to Jesus, he wants to do it to us: to lead us to desperation.
But Jesus defeats the temptations. And how does he defeat them? By avoiding discussion with the devil and answering with the Word of God. This is important: you cannot argue with the devil, you cannot converse with the devil! Jesus confronts him with the Word of God. He quotes three phrases from the Scripture that speak of freedom from goods (cf. Dt 8:3), trust (cf. Dt 6:16), and service to God (cf. Dt 6:13), three phrases that are opposed to temptation. He never enters into dialogue with the devil, he does not negotiate with him, but he repels his insinuations with the beneficent Words of the Scripture. It is an invitation to us too; one cannot defeat him by negotiating with him, he is stronger than us. We defeat the devil by countering him in faith with the divine Word. In this way, Jesus teaches us to defend unity with God and among ourselves from the attacks of the divider. The divine Word that is Jesus’ answer to the temptation of the devil.
And we ask ourselves: what place does the Word of God have in my life? Do I turn to it in my spiritual struggles? If I have a vice or a recurrent temptation, why do I not obtain help by seeking out a verse of the Word of God that responds to that vice? Then, when temptation comes, I recite it, I pray it, trusting in the grace of Christ. Let us try, it will help us in temptation, it will help us a great deal, so that, amid the voices that stir within us, the beneficent one of the Word of God will resound. May Mary, who welcomed the Word of God and with her humility defeated the pride of the divider, accompany us in the spiritual struggle of Lent.
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
Today, the Gospel presents us with the parable of the sower (cf. Mt 13:1-23). “Sowing” is a very beautiful image, and Jesus uses it to describe the gift of his Word. Let us imagine a seed: it is tiny, barely visible, but it makes fruit-bearing plants grow. The Word of God is like this: think of the Gospel, a small book, simple and within everyone’s reach, that produces new life in those who receive it. Thus, if the Word is the seed, we are the soil: we can receive it or not. But Jesus, the “good sower”, does not tire of sowing it generously. He knows our terrain, he knows that the stones of our inconstancy and the thorns of our vices (cf. vv. 21-22) can suffocate the Word, yet he hopes, he always hopes that we can bear abundant fruit (cf. v. 8).
This is what the Lord does, and this is what we too are called to do: to sow tirelessly. But how can one do this, sow continually without tiring? Let us take a few examples.
Firstly, parents: they sow goodness and faith in their children, and they are called to do so without being discouraged if at times they seem not to understand or to appreciate their teachings, or if the mentality of the world is against them. The good seed remains. This is what counts, and it will take root in due time. But if, giving in to mistrust, they give up sowing and leave their children at the mercy of trends and mobile phones, without dedicating time to them, without educating them, then the fertile soil will be filled with weeds. Parents, never grow tired of sowing in your children!
Let us look, then, at the young: they too can sow the Gospel in the furrows of everyday life; for example, with prayer: it is a small seed that you cannot see, but with which you entrust all your experiences to Jesus, and then he can make it ripen. But I am also thinking of the time to dedicate to others, to those who are most in need. It may seem wasted. Instead it is holy time, while the apparent satisfactions of consumerism and hedonism leave one empty-handed. And I am thinking of those who study: it is true, [studying] is tiring and not immediately fulfilling, like sowing, but is essential to building a better future for all.
We have looked at parents, we have looked at the young; now let us look at the sowers of the Gospel: many good priests, religious and laypeople engaged in proclamation, who live and preach the Word of God, often without immediate success. Let us never forget when we proclaim the Word, that even where it seems that nothing is happening, in reality the Holy Spirit is at work, and the Kingdom of God is already growing, through and beyond our efforts. Therefore, go ahead joyfully, dear brothers and sisters! Let us remember the people who placed the seed of the Word of God in our life: each one of us, let us think: “How did my faith begin”? Perhaps it germinated years after we encountered their examples, but it happened thanks to them!
In light of all this, we can ask ourselves: do I sow goodness? Do I only care about reaping for myself, or do I also sow for others? Do I sow some seeds of the Gospel in everyday life: study, work, free time? Do I get discouraged or, like Jesus, do I continue to sow, even if I do not see immediate results? May Mary, whom we venerate today as the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, help us to be generous and joyful sowers of the Good News.